When you think of a music legend you think of David Bowie?
Just two days after releasing his latest LP, Blackstar, on his 69th birthday, David Bowie died of liver cancer at his home in New York. Diagnosed with the disease 18 months earlier, until recent weeks, the artist had kept up an astonishing level of creativity in light of his condition.
Bowie’s’ androgynous looks, coupled with a penchant for abruptly shape-shifting his persona and music, sustained an accomplished career of more than four decades. A completely distinctive voice in pop music, during the 1970s in particular, Bowie maintained an unwavering pace, creating hits in the order of “Space Oddity,” “Suffragette City,” “Changes,” “Fame,” “Heroes,” “Let’s Dance” and “Where Are We Now?” He also collaborated with a broad array of artists, notably serving as writer-producer on Mott the Hoople’s hit, “All the Young Dudes.” “All the Young Dudes,” along with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” off the Bowie LP, Space Oddity, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, have taken on the stature of glam-rock anthems since their release. With their dirge-y construction and world-weary lyrics, they signaled a profound shift in pop music from the hippy-esque “All You Need is Love” of The Beatles, to a darker, more despairing point of view. That sea change signaled by “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” continues to influence the music of today. Without Bowie’s influence, it’s hard to imagine acts such as Arcade Fire or even Nirvana having evolved in the way they did. Bowie’s unapologetically vampy persona continues to reverberate with everybody from Miley Cyrus to The Flaming Lips. The entire EDM movement owes a huge debt to to David Bowie.
Legendarily, Bowie was no one-trick pony. Reinvention was a continual process for the singer-songwriter-musician-actor-producer. Each major musical release was accompanied with the appearance of a new persona. In the Ziggy days it was the flaming red hair and jumpsuits. By the mid-70s, a new Bowie had emerged as The Thin White Duke; a template for utter coolness. With the release of Bowie’s LP, Station to Station, a more stripped-down starker sound emerged.
Struggling with cocaine addiction, like so many before him, Bowie moved to Berlin in late 1976. The next album, Low, reflected Bowie’s growing fascination with Krautrock. The record’s minimalist approach as well as that of 1977’s Heroes evoked a cold and frigid Berlin still divided by the Cold War.
Bowie continued to find audiences in the 1980s, once again reinventing himself, this time as a New Wave pop star. His 1983 Let’s Dance was a monster, completely in tempo with its time. Spawning three Top 20 hits, Bowie reached his broadest audience. The early 1990s denoted yet another sea-change as Bowie delved into electronics, hip-hop and industrial influences.
In 2004 an emergency angioplasty was performed to deal with a severely blocked coronary artery. The artist then reduced what had been a hectic schedule of appearances, tours and production work, while still remaining in the public eye. The immaculately coiffed and dressed Thin White Duke was not quite done yet.
Bowie’s 2013 LP, The Next Day, his first studio record in a decade, was a triumphant return. A video for the single, “Where Are We Now?” blew up on YouTube after the web service briefly banned the clip, the LP itself becoming the fastest-selling record of the year.
The release of Blackstar piled on the accolades. Rolling Stone critic David Fricke called the album “a ricochet of textural eccentricity and pictorial-shrapnel writing.” According to long-time Bowie producer and collaborator Tony Visconti, Bowie knew the record would be his last. Writing on Facebook, Visconti posted, “His death was no different from his life, a work of art. He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry.”
When all is said and done the music world would probably not be what is today because of his presence and it will never be the same because of his absence. So here’s to Mr. Bowie-from everybody with ears.